We live in wondrous, terrible times. In every field of human endeavor we are exceeding ourselves, almost daily. Our tallest buildings are getting taller, our fastest computers are getting faster; gas-powered autos are giving way to electric vehicles, natural evolution is being supplanted by gene-editing. The list of achievements goes on and on and on, at a pace that makes any list obsolete in twenty-four hours. This is how it must feel in the center of a young star, that cauldron of creation where new elements are made.
As wondrous and exhilarating as this is, we have set off a chain reaction of invention all but beyond human control. The Beast of Invention has been set loose upon the world, and all are subject to its terrible will. Nature, of course, has somewhat trained us for this, for nature is without mercy; that invention itself is as cold-hearted as nature is a shock. It is this shock which now shakes the world, collectively and individually.
Invention for invention’s sake; this is where we find ourselves, today. How we got here is well-documented; the history of human thought and discovery has been written, albeit with some disagreement as to details. About the major landmarks of invention, however, there is no dispute. Control of fire, metallurgy, mathematics, written language, mechanization, industrialization and the digital age all figure prominently in any historical narrative. The psychic history of humanity, however, is less clear, though we have plainly suffered and continue to do so mightily.
There is the suffering of body – hunger, thirst, disease, injury and the like – and there’s still plenty of that to go around; and, there is the suffering of mind – fear, confusion, anxiety, anger, loneliness, depression and so forth. Bodies may be healed and hunger satisfied, but healing mind is much harder and far less certain. As invention’s rate of change accelerates, so too accelerates the suffering of mind. Invention’s relentlessness breaks the human heart.
The sometime entertaining distractions of invention ultimately do little to soothe broken hearts or salve the psychic pains borne of sadness and confusion. Speed, once idealized as swiftness and agility through the mythology of Hermes’ winged sandals, now for it’s own device dogs humanity as its prey. We are slaves driven by our own technologies of invention, whipped first this way then that, unable to evade its heartless pursuit. Moments of relief are just that, simply islands of retreat which must be sought again and again amid myriad new inventions.
The foundation of modern civilization was the invention of invention, specifically the systematic methodology of isolating causes and effects and progressively applying that knowledge across various disciplines. In our haste to discover how far and fast invention could proceed we ignored its terrible effects upon land and living things, including people. Though now obvious to many, our devotion to invention effectively mesmerized us into zombie-like inaction.
Evident in all this is the imperative that the dignity, uniqueness and incomparable worth of each human being be restored its rightful place at the apex of social values. Intimations of equality based on interchangeable homogeneity will not suffice; indeed, such conceptions degrade us by reducing individuals to objects of mere statistical calculation. If we are to address the ills of the world, it must be through absolute respect for human worth, not the soulless, dehumanizing inventions of profit and loss.
One thought on “The child of invention”
“Son of Daedalus who dared to fly too near the sun on wings of feathers and wax. Daedalus had been imprisoned by King Minos of Crete within the walls of his own invention, the Labyrinth. But the great craftsman’s genius would not suffer captivity. He made two pairs of wings by adhering feathers to a wooden frame with wax. Giving one pair to his son, he cautioned him that flying too near the sun would cause the wax to melt. But Icarus became ecstatic with the ability to fly and forgot his father’s warning. The feathers came loose and Icarus plunged to his death in the sea.”